The Global Media Monitoring Project is the only international project that gives an idea of the gender bias of the news media. Conducted every five years since 1995, the findings are consistently disappointing. The media continues coverage that sidelines women. The only place women are edging near to parity is in being 'person on the street', where over 40% of those interviewed are women. In terms of female experts, newsmakers, politicians, women are still under-represented. What is more disappointing is that the ratio of stories that challenge stereotypes, compared to those that reinforce stereotypes is only about one to five.

In the latest GMMP, conducted on November 10 2009, the internet news media was also analysed. The survey looked at 76 national news sites from 16 countries, and 8 international news sites. The findings reinforced what many readers will already know - women's prescence in cyberspace news is a reflection of their presence in 'traditional' news. But, after I just go through some of the numbers, I'd like to mention a couple of caveats.

In terms of news subjects, online, women made up 23% of news subjects. The only topic where female interviewess outnumbered male was in the single story found on the Girl Child. Of those interviewed, 16% of women were portrayed as victims, compared to only 5% of men, a marginally worse result than in traditional media. Women are more likely than men (26% to 21%) to feature in photographs or other multimedia accompanying a story. I was suprised to find that women were almost as badly represented as reporters in online news rooms as traditional - given that online reporters often earn less! But, yes, only 36% of online reporters were women, replicating trends in traditional newsrooms.

Only 4% of stories challenged gender stereotypes, compared to 42% that reinforced them, and women were only central to 11% of online news stories, compared to 13% of traditional news media.

Now for the caveat. One of the exciting things about new media is that people can make their own news, that they aren't restricted to the traditional forms of news media - but the GMMP seemed to be looking precisely for sites that replicated traditional news media as closely as possible. Even when you look at their analysis of traditional media, a gaping hole is formed in that they ignore community media, even in countries such as Australia where as much as a quarter of the population tune in, for example, to community radio. While not denying the dominance of the old news publishers online, perhaps taking a look at how people source their news, not just at the big names, might lead to some more interesting results.

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